Sustainable, Generative, Cross-Pollinating Ideas


For those of you who have attended one of my talks, you’ll have heard this quote before:

The next revolution will be a revolution of ideas.

It is from the late, great Bill Hicks and is usually the jumping off point from the foundation of my talk into the exploration of new ideas. It’s a fitting quote to push off from the past and into the new ideas ahead.

I’m becoming bored with pure aesthetic. That’s the sentiment the last gasps of 2008 left me with. We’ve reached our saturation point as commercial and cultural consumers of objects and visuals. What remains is for us to engage with our physical, economic and commercial realities in new ways – and ideas are the most powerful vehicle we have for engagement. They are perhaps the most enduring commodity we have as a society, and increase in value exponentially when they are:

For me, sustainability – in terms of ideas – is about the engagement with the idea behind a project, initiative or product, and its durability. If you create something that is only a beautiful aesthetic, then you have just another object or visual. More stuff. Create a powerful idea for ongoing engagement, whether physical or cerebral, and you’re creating sustainable relationships between individuals and the work. For example, IKEA is spreading popular, adequately designed furniture and products, but it’s just more stuff. IKEA Hacker, however, is the idea that keeps the brand and its products sustainable in terms of fresh engagement and independent connection. Yet the idea didn’t come from IKEA. And therein lies the beauty of this particular idea.

I once asked Choreographer Bill T Jones about the inspiration for one of his works I was particularly moved by. He said “I was in the Met and saw a painting by Hans Hofman, and thought ‘I’d like to create a dance that moves the way that painting looks’.” When you only get your ideas from your own field of reference or profession, you do nothing but work in loops that get tighter and smaller with each round of introspection. Regardless of your discipline, go outside of it to find the next idea.

I am endlessly enthused and shamelessly addicted to Make, Instructables, Readymade… the list goes on. The reason? At the heard of each project documented is a new idea generated by the public. Whether it is how to create a new object out of seemingly non-associated pieces, or instructions on how to modify Object A into an improved Object B, it is ideas made real – and with each engagement by the public, the project and idea grows, spreads and is developed more. Life is a 24/7 research and development workshop, and its on sites like these that you begin to see the product of the R&D.

So let’s not lose touch of our need for new areas of thought and exploration.

“The idea is the machine that makes the art” – Sol Lewitt